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    France to ease retail regulations

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    French Consumer Affairs Minister, , proposes to ease retail regulations from January to allow stores to subtract fees paid by manufacturers from list prices.

    In an interview to leading French daily , he said ‘the objective is to allow consumers to benefit as of 2008 from all the ‘back margins’,’ the trade term for fees that suppliers pay to retailers.

    But, Chatel is opposed to below-cost selling by retailers as proposed by the Attali commission in its report on ways to boost economic growth.

    He cited the risk of small retailers being hurt by big retailers with large volumes.

    Chatel said he is open to the idea of letting retailers negotiate prices with suppliers, who currently set in advance a single price for all retail customers.

    But, he said it was too late to change the rules in time for 2008, pointing instead to the possibility of conducting trials, for example ‘to allow retailers to negotiate prices solely with big suppliers or in certain sectors’.

    Chatel said he will set up a working group within the next few days to discuss measures covering price negotiations, with the option of including proposals in a finance bill due to be debated in parliament in the spring.

    Regarding the so-called Raffarin law, limiting the opening of stores above 300 square metres, the minister said the legislation has restricted competition but did not indicate whether he had plans to reform it.

    The Attali commission, which submitted its findings November 13, also came out in favour of scrapping the Raffarin law together with its predecessor, the Royer law.